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Chef John Surla expands to Hilmar with Lola Express & Bistro
Lola Bistro and Express 1
Chef John Surla stands in the express portion of his new restaurant, Lola Bistro & Express, where patrons can choose from a range of grab-and-go options.

Fresh cuisine in a farm-friendly atmosphere is now available in Hilmar as Lola Bistro & Express officially opened its doors on Tuesday.

Owner and Executive Chef John Surla of Surla’s in Modesto is making a departure from his successful flagship restaurant by opening Lola Express & Bistro. In a tribute to his grandmother who taught her nine daughters how to cook, Lola means grandmother in Surla’s Filipino dialect so the new restaurant is a nod towards his heritage.

While Surla initially wanted to open a second restaurant in Turlock, he was attracted to the First Street location in Hilmar because it afforded him more creative control over the aesthetics of the space.

“I could design it the way I want it,” explained Surla. “I wanted character. I wanted functionality. I wanted rustic earth tones, that farm feeling. Because that is where we are.”

Surla consciously stayed away from what he calls the “trendy city look” in order to create a comfortable environment for patrons.

 “It’s too overwhelming,” said Surla. “You need to make them feel at home.”

Surla plans to do this through warm décor including distressed barn wood floors, Knotty Alder wood stained trim, and rust accents in the interior and exterior patio of the restaurant.

While there is one kitchen at the restaurant, diners will have two options upon entering Lola: to purchase food and drinks from the express grab-and-go bar or to dine in the bistro.

The express side will have composed salads, coffees, juices, and a hot Chinese food bar with the price point ranging from six to nine dollars.

Similar to Surla’s in Modesto, the bistro portion of the restaurant showcases an exposed wine cellar and food items ranging from $7 to $24. Signature dishes from the Modesto restaurant like the miso-glazed salmon and Chef John’s lumpia, which are savory pastries, are available alongside new items.  With local farms produce and poultry incorporated into the menu, Lola Bistro & Express is offering the Hilmar community a unique take on farm to fork food.

Lola Bistro & Express is located at 19920 First Street in Hilmar. The restaurant is currently open for dinner only from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday for the first month. The second month lunch will be served as well from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday brunch will be added during the third month.